Not knowing

The pre-knowing place. Commonly known and experienced as not knowing...:

  • the answer
  • what to do next
  • which option to choose
  • when the right time is
  • the why of it

Typical feelings associated are frustration, uncertainty, and anxiety. I tend to skew towards frustration at myself. I should know goddamnit.

Before I move onto what to do, let's slow down a little and consider whether there are any benefits to the not knowing stage.

In coaching, I love a 'I don't know' answer. It means we haven't got an answer set in stone and we are open to information, options, and exploring, AND we are not afraid of admitting it. Standing in that space and owning that we don't know takes strength and confidence. And then we get to explore!  

Yes that last sentence was written with the childlike glee of going on an adventure, innocently accepting the experience of each step and what it brings without any knowledge of the destination or the time it will take to get there (or where the car was parked, or where the nearest toilet or coffee is...)

I suppose then it gives us an opportunity to enjoy the steps leading up to knowing. Investigating. But also the anticipation... like when we watch a film for the first time, sometimes we guess the ending but other times we just go along with it, enjoying the experience and trusting it will come to a satisfying conclusion (do you remember Sixth Sense?)

But we can only feel, never mind enjoy, the pre-knowing steps if we can let go of the sometimes overwhelming more negative feelings and trust we will know when we are supposed to. Another way of saying this is that when we have the right information, or enough of it, the answer will be easy or obvious.

We can only ever make a decision based on information which comes from what we know, think, and feel, right now. And that decision is only for right now. How can we ask for more? As far as I know we aren't that great, as humans, at predicting the future :0) Then as we continue with our lives, more information naturally comes to us (like when we 'sleep on it'). Also, when we make a tentative decision, just that in itself is new and so can provide lots of new information and feedback. (Think about when you have an option of two things, say dvds, which your friend hides behind their back, you pick a hand, and then you know from your response whether you really wanted the other one).

The Cartesian questions are a great little tool to gather what you know, and potentially elicit even more information. In just four simple sounding questions:

  1. What would happen if you did?
  2. What would happen if you didn't?
  3. What wouldn't happen if you did?
  4. What wouldn't happen if you didn't?

Two points from experience, if I may:

  • Write down your answers. So you can see the thinking and feelings as external on a page. It helps to put a little distance between you so it isn't just swirling in your head, and so it helps allow access the logical reasoning part of the brain.
  • Trust the process - you may think on first look that surely you'd give the same answer to the similar ones - and yes there is a lot of overlap but there is usually something additional, or different. And that's what you are looking for. More information to add.

And then you may decide that you just don't know enough yet. And that's okay. IN FACT that's great! That IS information. You know that you don't yet know. Your brain will then keep an eye out for anything external thats relevant, and your subconscious will chew over things internallly.

And at the end of the day, be kind to yourself. Which decision would you rather stake your happiness on - one that was made when you were stressed, frustrated, and worried, or one that you made when you were happy, relaxed, and positive?